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Alliance Recognizes Top Citizen, Business and Community Helpers

People who have served Hardin County for years and others who are just beginning to make an impact were recognized for their accomplishments Thursday night at the annual meeting of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance.

People who have served Hardin County for years and others who are just beginning to make an impact were recognized for their accomplishments Thursday night at the annual meeting of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance.

Long-time Kenton resident Margaret Carmean was named 2014 Citizen of the Year in honor of her long teaching career and volunteer activities, while Quest Federal Credit Union, which traces its roots to 1969, was named Business of the Year.

In a nod to the younger generation, Community Service Awards were presented to Maddi Kugel, an 11-year-old who spearheaded efforts to develop a dog park in Kenton; and Wesley Lowery, a young man who raised funds to rehabilitate the old tornado siren in Alger.

More than 200 people attended the event, held in the McIntosh Center ballroom at Ohio Northern University in Ada.

Citizen of the Year

Margaret Carmean, a 1950 graduate of Kent State University, moved to Hardin County in 1952 to become a physical education and health teacher with Kenton City Schools. A couple years after moving here she married county native Nelson Carmean and they had two children, Fred and Lisa. During her 30-year teaching career, Carmean also coached a variety of high school girls sports teams and clubs, including Kenton’s first volleyball team. She was a pioneer and advocate for young female athletes during the 1970s when high school athletics were going through many changes. Following her retirement, she was a mentor in the elementary school reading program.

“She has truly touched the lives of thousands of Hardin County students,” said Annetta Shirk, director of Chamber and Tourism, who presented the award. Carmean also was recognized for her countless volunteer hours, including being an active member of the Hardin County Ambassadors and serving as a greeter at Ohio Northern University’s Freed Center. She has served on boards for Hardin County Hospice, Hardin County Historical Society, Sullivan-Johnson Museum and First United Methodist Church. She has volunteered at Hardin Memorial Hospital, was involved with the Hardin County Sesquicentennial Bicycle Tour and Gene Autry Days, while also promoting many local organizations. Shirk said one of the nominations said Carmean “continues to do the right thing and contribute to her community/county because of her character, not because anybody is looking, and Hardin County is a better place because of her contributions.” “Obviously I feel very humbled,” Carmean told the crowd. “When I came to Hardin County and Kenton in the early 1950s I only planned to stay a couple of years and I stayed here 63. It’s a wonderful place to live and work. Thank you very much for this honor.”

Business of the Year

To be considered for the Business of the Year Award, Shirk said “a business or industry should give back to the community, support local business, and create or encourage job growth.” She said Quest Federal Credit Union has more than exceeded each of those categories. Started in 1969 as the Kenton Rockwell Standard Federal Credit Union, the business as Quest has grown to $87 million in assets with four locations and serves members in the Kenton, Ada and Bellefontaine areas. Giving back to the community is a goal of Quest. It has invested many volunteer hours and monetary donations to many projects including Home Run Memorial Park, Hardin County YMCA Soccer Complex, Hardin Memorial Hospital, downtown revitalization and the Kenton Armory restoration project.

Quest actively participates and contributes to the United Way of Hardin County and the Hardin County Junior Fair livestock auction, has established a scholarship program for high school seniors and provides financial literacy programs in area schools. The company also encourages its employees to actively participate in their schools, churches and organizations. Matt Jennings, Quest president and CEO, thanked the Alliance “for bestowing on us this great honor.” He noted it was a grassroots effort to start the original credit union, with board members handing out membership cards at Rockwell. “Our growth is a testament that we are doing the right things,” Jennings said.
Board President Dick Wilcox added, “I’d like to thank our board, our employees and our nearly 13,000 members who patronize the credit union.”

Community Service Awards

Maddi Kugel said it was getting her dog, Lombardi, that led her to wanting a dog park. She said she wanted to have a party and there was no place to take Lombardi. That motivated Maddi, with the encouragement of her grandma, Patti Risner, a member of Kenton City Council, to promote the need for a dog park in the city. She presented her idea to the council and the Parks and Recreation Board, then began researching types of dog parks and how to pay for one. Based on space needs, it was decided Wharton Park on the city’s southwest side was the best location. Many local and corporate volunteers started to assist her by donating money and time. “I never thought we would be able to raise the money and be operating in seven months,” said Maddi, who appropriately named it the “Bark Park.”She developed two sections of the dog park – one for smaller dogs and the other for larger ones. She has spent many hours volunteering at the park and has written a grant for benches, trash receptacles and landscaping. “I thank God and everyone who believed in the park,” said Maddi, now a fifth-grader at Kenton Elementary School. “Thank you for this award for me and Lombardi.”

Wesley Lowery remembers watching television coverage of deadly tornadoes that struck Oklahoma a couple years ago and that prompted him to question why the Village of Alger did not have a tornado siren. He was told they have one but it needed repairs. Wesley decided to approach the village council to ask if they would repair the siren if he helped to raise the money. The council agreed. A student at Upper Scioto Valley High School, Wesley starting making pet caskets with his grandfather, with all the proceeds going toward the siren project. He also asked the community for donations, plus helped with a benefit supper and raffle. The cost of the siren repairs was $3,000 and Wesley was responsible for raising more than $1,300. The siren is being repaired and Alger plans to have it in operation by May. One of the nominations for Wesley said, “If Wesley had not taken this project on it would have never happened – he is a determined young man.” “I am very happy to accept this award tonight,” Wesley said. “We need the tornado siren so bad.” He said when the siren was taken down it was rusted, but still worked. Now, he said, “It got painted red and it’s got my name on it.”